• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 13s

In Barrow, climate and cultural research go hand in hand

By Bonney Bowman 6:57 AM February 7, 2014

Science has been a feature on the North Slope for decades

BARROW – Barrow is the biggest city on the North Slope.

It’s home to around 5,000 people, many of them Alaska Natives who’ve called the city home for generations.

They live side by side with one of the most advanced scientific facilities in Alaska, pairing traditional practices with modern innovation.

Kyle Custard and a team of graduate students from Purdue University are studying climate change, examining the air and the plentiful snow for traces of iodine.

They trudge out into the night, snow chamber in hand, battling intense winds and wind chills in the minus-40s. This snow may hold a clue about climate change. It’s something no one else has studied in a place few people think to work.

“Not a lot of people ever come up here this far north and you don’t experience this anywhere else in the world,” Custard said.

Science has been a feature on the North Slope since the 1950s, when the Navy landed in the Alaska Native town to build the Naval Arctic Research Lab, NARL.

The campus is now managed by UMIAQ, part of the local native corporation. Working here requires planning, permits and protection; something the UMIAQ staff provides using their wealth of ancestral knowledge.

They also have workspace at the BARC – Barrow Arctic Research Center.

One of the people using this modern technology to explore the past is archeologist Dr. Anne Jensen.

The BARC’s lab space and deep freezers are ideal for her native artifacts.

Jensen studies the Inupiat people, the ancestors of those who currently call Barrow home.

She said being able to work so near her dig sites is beneficial, both for the artifacts she studies and the community they come from.

“It lets it be here. It lets people come and see it,” Jensen said. “You can take stuff to elders. The stuff is in the community. There’s just a lot of advantages to that.”

UMIAQ leaders say many are surprised to learn about the amenities available for research in Barrow, a place where traditional parkas and skin boats can be found next to snowmachines and pickup trucks.

A lot of the work here is dedicated to climate research, like that done by Custard and his team.

“The Arctic is warming a lot faster that the rest of the planet,” he said. “That’s another big issue.”

The rapid changes, like receding ice and shrinking hunting grounds, are forcing those who rely on subsistence lifestyles to adapt as well, while the latest tools help to forward our understanding of the world around us and how its changes impact those who’ve called the North Slope home for more than a thousand years.

Latest Stories

  • Sports

    Saturday game results for week 3 of Alaska high school football

    by Dave Goldman on Aug 27, 23:03

    Wild scene at Eagle River-Wolves win their first topping Barrow 22-20. 25 yard FG by Andrew Hamilton the difference. pic.twitter.com/ORixoUm36s — KTVA 11 Sports (@KTVASports) August 28, 2016   Eagle River 22  Barrow 20 Andrew Hamilton’s 25-yard field goal with under three minutes remaining gave the Eagle High School Wolves their first win of the […]

  • News

    Crews slow Matanuska River erosion

    by Eric Ruble on Aug 27, 22:56

    BUTTE — Construction crews are making progress on fighting erosion along the Matanuska River. Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Services Director Bill Gamble called the situation “critical” Friday. On Saturday, however, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and its contractors were heaping massive loads of rock onto the edge of the river. They were also […]

  • News

    Anchorage pilot dies in Oregon air show crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 27, 22:16

    ANCHORAGE — Marcus Paine, a pilot based out of Anchorage, died in a plane crash at an airshow in Madras, Oregon on Saturday. The Airshow of the Cascades website stated Marcus Paine died during his Saturday afternoon performance. “The Paine family and the airshow community appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” an […]

  • Lifestyle

    Bethel physician Dr. Jill Seaman on splitting her time between Alaska and South Sudan

    by Anna Rose MacArthur/KYUK on Aug 27, 18:26

    This story originated from KYUK Public Media and was republished with permission. A Bethel physician is getting ready to return to South Sudan and the medical organization she’s helped run there since the 1980s. Dr. Jill Seaman spends about four months a year in Bethel working at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation. Then she travels to Old Fangak, […]

  • News

    AST: Army, wildlife troopers help rescue injured pilot following crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 27, 17:42

    A U.S. Army helicopter and crew, along with Alaska Wildlife Troopers, helped find and rescue a Fairbanks pilot after his plane crashed Saturday. An online Alaska State Troopers dispatch stated 69-year-old William Larry was alone when his Piper Super Cub plane crashed seven miles northeast of Harding Lake. The crash was reported at 10:49 a.m., […]

  • News

    AFD: At least one unit in Reka Drive building damaged by fire

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 27, 15:39

    At least one home on Reka Drive was damaged by fire Saturday. The Anchorage Fire Department responded and was able to put the fire out. Multiple people called to report the fire at 2:03 p.m., according to a fire dispatcher. She said 14 AFD units were sent to the fire, which caused visible damage to […]

  • Crime

    Former Bethel officer Andrew Reid sentenced, victim’s sister speaks up about lasting trauma

    by Adrian Wagner/KYUK on Aug 27, 13:53

    This story originated from KYUK Public Media and was republished with permission. BETHEL — Former Bethel police officer Andrew Reid has been sentenced by a Bethel judge to the maximum penalty allowed for the two crimes he pleaded guilty to: one count of first-degree assault and one count of fourth-degree official misconduct. Reid will spend a maximum […]

  • News

    Boston police officers cover vet bill for dog who ‘took a bullet’ for his owner

    by Jennifer Earl / CBS News on Aug 27, 13:29

    An innocent young woman and a family dog were struck with bullets after an argument erupted in gunfire in a Boston neighborhood early Thursday. According to CBS Boston, police are still searching for suspects in the shooting of 18-year-old Dashaye Mizhari, who is now in the intensive care unit. The teenager was reportedly shot three times as she ran for cover. But officers believe there could have […]